By Mark Campbell
Port Union Road is the only major arterial road in Scarborough that does not have a minimal four-lane cross section. This bit of knowledge was likely well known by the 139 residents who logged on to a virtual meeting with the City of Toronto in the evening of Monday, May 10 to hear an update on the progress being made to widen our main north-south thoroughfare.
But when will it happen? This is the question on the minds of many. The discussion has been going on for over 20 years, depending on who you ask. The city does have a plan, however, there are still a few details to work out.
As far as official planning goes, it began in 2004 with an environmental assessment (EA) to add an additional northbound lane of traffic. There was an addendum to the EA in 2015 that aimed to minimize the impact to existing properties and provide continuous sidewalks along the length of Port Union from Lawrence Ave. to Island Rd. In 2016, a consulting firm was hired to provide a preliminary design.
The design considered several factors: the initial objective to add an additional lane of traffic; Vision Zero, the city’s program to prioritize safety and eliminate traffic-related injuries; Complete Streets, the approach for designing city streets to ensure that everyone feels safe, comfortable and connected; and to integrate into the Cycling Network Plan connecting to bike lanes on Lawrence (in the south) and Sheppard Ave. to the north.
The final design includes the following changes:
- Addition of a northbound lane of traffic from Lawrence to Island Rd.
- Left turn lanes at most intersections
- Dedicated bike lanes in each direction
- AODA compliant sidewalks on both sides of the street
- Updated street lighting and hydro poles
- Changes to TTC stop locations
- Updated bus shelters and street furniture (bins and benches)
- Planting of native trees along the boulevard
- Reduced speed limit (50km/h)
One of the main obstacles remains securing several property easements that are required to complete the design. “The project will require a mix of permanent and temporary easements for construction and maintenance of retaining walls,” said Steve Ziegler, Senior Public Consultation Coordinator with the city. “Staff continue to negotiate with owners to secure the easements by agreement, rather than by expropriation. However, expropriation proceedings have been initiated to maintain project timelines.”
Which brings us back to the question of timing. There is still a lot to be done before road work begins. Enbridge will need to complete gas main relocations. Hydro poles must be moved. The city will tender and award the construction contract. All of this is scheduled to happen this calendar year. If property easements can be secured, road construction is scheduled to commence in April 2022.
If all goes according to plan, we will have our four-lane Port Union Road by November of next year.
More details can be found at toronto.ca/portunion.